Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 2, 2010

Around Town

DON'T SKIRT THE LAW! ... Palo Alto's elected officials are officially lining up against a California Assembly Bill that would exempt certain projects from provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). On March 16, Mayor Pat Burt sent a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declaring the city's opposition to Assembly Bill 1805, which would allow projects selected by the Business, Transportation, and Housing Agency to avoid the stringent environmental-review process. As the letter makes clear, the city is particularly worried about the state's proposed high-speed rail (HSR) system, which under the current plans would stretch through the city along the Caltrain tracks. "This project, if built, would be the largest single capital infrastructure project in the city, and its impacts on Palo Alto would be significant," Burt wrote to the Governor. "We strongly believe the guarantees of full CEQA review of the HSR project were the basis for approval of Measure 1A," he added, referring to the $9.95 billion bond measure California voters approved in November 2008.

FOOLS RUSH IN ... For charitable folks with limited time on their hands, the Stanford Blood Center this week announced a revolutionary new way to donate blood via the Internet: the iDonate application. Using a USB interface (Windows and Mac compatible), blood bag and sterile, single-use needle, donors can deliver their type A, B, AB or O blood straight to the laboratory for processing. No need to go the blood bank in person anymore! The only catch? The Stanford Blood Center made the announcement in an e-mail ... sent on April 1 — as a joke.

FOR THE FRANCOPHILES ... He slugged Spiderman, got stoned with Seth Rogen and frolicked with Harvey Milk. Now, Palo Alto native James Franco has his sights on the next big project: publishing a collection of short stories. Franco, who graduated from Palo Alto High School in 1996, is scheduled to have a book published in October. The collection, entitled "Palo Alto," will be published by Scribner. But fans of Franco (or of Palo Alto) don't have to wait that long to get a sample of Franco's fiction. The magazine Esquire has just published Franco's story, "Just Before the Black," which features reckless driving, raunchy banter, marijuana smoke and allusions to local locales such as Foothill College and the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course pro shop.

THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER ... Palo Alto's heated battle over composting is scheduled to continue Monday, when the City Council considers whether it's greener to build a composting facility at the Baylands' Byxbee Park or to ship the city's yard waste to a regional facility. This means the conservationists who've been dreaming of a completed Byxbee Park are set for another scrimmage with environmentalists who see a local waste-to-energy facility as a great way to both dispose of yard trimmings and make some money for the city. This week, the two sides renewed their efforts to sway the council to their respective points of view. David Bubenik, who opposes a new composting plant on park space, sent the council a letter with pictures of what a possible composting plant would look like and argued that "to surrender parkland for a waste-processing facility would be unbelievably retrogressive and beyond unconscionable." Other notable green leaders, including former council members Enid Pearson and Emily Renzel have likewise lobbied city officials to close the landfill at Byxbee Park and restore the parkland. Not to be outdone, proponents of a new composting plant organized into a new group, Palo Alto Green Energy, which includes former Mayor Peter Drekmeier, Acterra director David Coale and environmentalist Walt Hays. The group sent the council a letter, asking for a feasibility study of a new facility, which the group wants to see next to the Regional Water Quality Control Plant.

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